There are currently 7.6 million people with disabilities working in the UK, yet new figures show one in three small businesses are not employing anyone with a disability. 


The research shows as much as one in five of the working age population of the UK have some kind of disability. However, business leaders remain concerned about the costs of workplace adaptations, have a lack of knowledge about rights and regulations and worry about the pitfalls of making incorrect management decisions. 


Now, however, there’s fresh hope things could change for the better. 


Theresa May has announced proposals to overhaul sick pay and create accessible, adaptable homes as part of a package of measures to support working age people with disabilities. 


The Prime Minister says reform of statutory sick pay should focus on flexibility and covering the lowest paid, while consultations will be launched into measures for employers to support people with disabilities. 


Among the suggestions are giving companies a conditional rebate to support those who manage staff on sickness absence and help them get back to work. Other changes may include employee rights to request workplace modifications on health grounds. 


A new Equalities Hub, meanwhile, will study the obstacles to work faced by disabled people and work with charities and user groups to include their views in any new policy decisions. 


Dave Thompson MBE DL believes disabled people can bring a wealth of life experience and skills that often go untapped. He founded Disability Awareness Day (DAD) in 1992 – an annual event managed by his Warrington Disability Partnership.  


Now the world’s largest not for profit voluntary-led disability exhibition, it inspires people from all over the world and offers support to disabled people and their families, friends and carers. The latest DAD was held on the 14th of July and attracted an estimated 25,000 visitors to a massive marquee village within the grounds of Walton Hall Gardens in Warrington. 


So, what motivated Dave to create the event? 


“In 1992 there were a number of commercial disability exhibitions,” he notes, “but the exhibition organisers didn’t really cater for the end user – people like me, the disabled – and they certainly didn’t cater for the families of disabled people. 


“If you look at the past 15 to 20 years, however, disability equipment has changed massively. We’ve moved from being recipients of the state and the NHS wheelchair service to an environment where there are lots of innovators and self-funded producers and, as a result, a plethora of chairs and mobility vehicles. Getting to where we are today is what motivated me 28 years ago to set up DAD.”  


That vision has become a global phenomenon, with disability groups worldwide urged to use the 14th of July as a day to celebrate disability matters. The response has been massive. 


“Each year we get emails from new organisations such as Topshop, BT and M&S and over the years there have been DAD events in Mexico, Gibraltar, Denmark, Sweden, India, Uganda and Cameroon.” 


DAD has also been instrumental in assisting disabled people who are unsure where to find the resources to get into the workplace. 


“One of the many associated events in the run-up to this year’s DAD centred around Disability Confident and getting more employers to sign up to Disability Confident. This scheme helps them recruit and retain talented people, as well as helping identify employers who are committed to equality in the workplace.” 


At the main event, there were several organisations giving advice and guidance on employment, including Warrington Disability Partnership. There were also employers and charities looking to directly recruit disabled people for their organisations. 


Learning and upskilling is another great way to find a new career. 


Dave points out: “83% of disabled people acquire their disability during their working life, just like I did, which can mean a move from physical to administrative work. Personally, I had to retrain in computers and courses in different things – that’s what we do a lot with our charity.” 


Dave believes more can still be done at a government level to help facilitate moves into work, while greater awareness of existing programmes would boost recruitment.  


“The Access to Work scheme, for example, is one of the best kept secrets the government has,” he says. “It paid for the hand controls in my car, and we have members of staff with important equipment paid for by Access to Work. 


“If you don’t know about this – and many employers don’t – then you buy into the myth that employing a disabled person is going to cost money. 


“Another myth is that disabled people take more time off sick. The truth is people like me have had to manage our life around our disability and because of that we’re good at managing any illnesses. In fact, we’re more resilient, which is why disabled people take less time off work.” 


Dave also has personal advice for disabled job seekers. 


“Seek out employers who are proactively demonstrating their willingness to hire you. 

Look out for the Disability Confident symbol – this shows you the organisation is serious about disability. 


“But also, be confident in your own abilities. It’s not what we can’t do that matters, it’s what we can do. Once you’ve made life changes there are so many positives out there!” 


Why not discover the possibilities open to you with all the latest career opportunities online now?